EU Parliament launches internal probe over corruption charges
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EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola said on Monday there will be an “internal” investigation into the so-called Qatargate scandal. Parliament Vice President Eva Kaili of Greece was relieved of her duties this week.
Authorities said a Gulf country was suspected of offering cash or gifts to parliament officials in exchange for political favours. Prosecutors declined to identify the country, but several members of the assembly and some Belgian media linked the investigation to Qatar, which is currently hosting soccer’s gala event, the World Cup.
Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied any wrongdoing.
Brussels police will conduct a second raid on European Parliament offices on Monday evening.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the EU’s executive arm, said the accusations against Kaili threatened the confidence EU citizens have put in the 27-nation bloc’s institutions.
“This confidence and trust in our institutions need highest standards of independence and integrity,” von der Leyen said during a news conference.
She said the independent ethics body she proposed establishing would cover lobbying activities at the European Commission, the European Council and European Parliament, as well as at the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors.
The EU does not already have comprehensive lobbying regulations.
“The principles of having such an ethics body where there are very clear rules on what has to be checked, how and when and what has to be published, how and when would be a big step forward,” she said.
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On Friday, police in Belgium’s capital carried out multiple raids as part of the investigation and reported seizing around €600,000 in cash, computer equipment and mobile telephones. The federal prosecutor’s office, without identifying any individual, said four of six people detained that day were subsequently charged, and two were released.
Prosecutors have confirmed that a parliament member was arrested but declined to confirm it was Kaili, 44, a former TV news anchor,. They said they suspect “the payment of large sums of money, or the offer of significant gifts” to people holding with influential positions at the European Parliament.
In Athens, Greek government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said the accusations against Kaili represented “a very serious case that is in the hands of Belgian justice” and “creates one more rift in the credibility and trust in European institutions and the European Parliament.”
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The European Parliament begins its last plenary session of the year in Strasbourg, France, on Monday.
Manon Aubry, the Left group’s co-president at Parliament, said her group would ask for a debate and a resolution on the scandal, with the aim of implementing “way stricter rules.”
“The battle continues: Our democracy is not for sale,” Aubry wrote on Twitter.
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